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Butler County-run nursing home, which has struggled financially, needs new administrator

Hamilton Journal News - 5/14/2019

May 14-- May 14--The Butler County commissioners are looking for a new leader for the Care Facility after Administrator Jennifer Strickland resigned.

The commissioners accepted Strickland's resignation effective May 21 and hired LeaderStat for $40,800 to provide an interim administrator until they can find someone new. Strickland, then a consultant with LeaderStat, was hired two years ago.

Strickland could not be reached for comment, but county Administrator Judi Boyko said she has another career opportunity.

The county nursing home has struggled financially for years. Commissioners authorized a $350,000 payment to the nursing home in December, and it also received a $100,000 payment from the general fund in October. The payments helped cover a $242,000 deficit at the facility.

Strickland at the time said it could be the last cash infusion needed.

"The goal was to go into 2019 completely in the black," she said then. "We are not anticipating getting any more loans."

Two years ago, the facility needed a $425,000 subsidy, and in 2016 the commissioners had to loan it $225,000 so payroll could be met through the end of the year. At one time, the county nursing home owed the general fund $1.1 million, a debt the home partially repaid. However, it has continued to need regular infusions of cash as Medicaid rates, regulations and audits affect the bottom line.

Commissioner Don Dixon, who is in the nursing home business, said it is a challenging business.

"It's (the budget) probably not going to do as good as it should have if she'd stayed (because of the hiring of an interim and new permanent administrator). It's just the cost of doing business. It is what it is," he said. "The market changes constantly in that business, and I think it's been more challenging than anyone thought it would be. But she's done OK, it's better now than when she came."

Although the home has been a drain on the general fund, all three commissioners have committed to keeping the home, which is a place of last resort for the county's poor. That has not changed with Strickland's departure.

"It's status quo, we're running the operations how we have been," Commissioner T.C. Rogers said. "We expect no structural changes."

Strickland told the Journal-News previously part of the drop in residents industry-wide is due to the managed health care push to have patients live in their own homes with a home health care provider rather than to a skilled nursing home for rehab upon release from a hospital stay.

The facility is unique in the industry with its new segregated male and female secure dementia patient wings.

Just a few years ago, the 109-bed nursing home struggled to attract new clientele. It was a dark, foreboding place, with dingy paint, dark lighting, shabby furniture, malfunctioning equipment, structural challenges and other issues.

There is now a new roof, fresh cream-colored paint throughout the building, new ceiling tiles, lighting, flooring, furniture, new outdoor patios and redesigned spaces to create an open feel, among other improvements.

The commissioners have put more than $1 million into renovating the facility.

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